Saturday, October 08, 2005

Mousetraps and ping pong balls

Even the Moonie Times is piling on:

George Tenet is not going to let himself become the fall guy for the September 11 intelligence failures, according to a former intelligence officer and a source friendly to Mr. Tenet.

A scathing report by Inspector General John Helgerson criticized the former CIA director and a score of other agency personnel for their failure to develop a strategy against al Qaeda. The report, delivered to Congress this week, recommends punitive sanctions for Mr. Tenet, former Deputy Director of Operations James L. Pavitt and former counter-terrorist center head J. Cofer Black. Mr. Tenet's response to the report is a 20-page, tightly knitted rebuttal of responsibility prepared with the aid of a lawyer, according to the friendly source. Mr. Tenet's decision to defend himself against the charges in the report poses a potential crisis for the White House. According to a former clandestine services officer, the former CIA director turned down a publisher's $4.5 million book offer because he didn't want to embarrass the White House by rehashing the failure to prevent September 11 and the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Tenet, according to a knowledgeable source, had a "wink and a nod" understanding with the White House that he wouldn't be scapegoated for intelligence failings. The deal, one source says, was sealed with the award of the Presidential Freedom Medal.

Now that deal may be off. Mr. Tenet's rebuttal to the report is detailed and explicit. In defending his integrity as CIA director, Mr. Tenet treads perilously close to affirming the account of Richard Clarke, the former NSC terrorism official whose public disclosure of the Bush administration's delay in adopting a strategy against al Qaeda stirred controversy last summer.

Remember the low-tech demonstration of the way nuclear fission works? It involves moustraps and ping pong balls. (You can actually run simulations here) The experiment shows how setting off one moustrap starts an all-encompassing reaction that trips damn near all of them.

It may seem like a remarkable coincidence that so many shitstorms are swirling at once, but this is exactly what we should have expected: as soon as the dauphin is seen as vulnerable, a chain reaction starts. And like runaway fission, each new scandal begets two more, until critical mass is reached, and the process becomes impossible to stop.

Morals and ominous portents abound here. Silence is not bought from the living; it is merely rented. As Congress grows restive, the Bush cabal will find they can no longer pay that rent, and Washington will start getting louder. If George Tenet goes public with a story like Richard Clarke's, after receiving his baksheesh, he will become a suicide bomber himself, but his ordnance will find its mark. A Tenet tell-all takes another five points off Bush's numbers, and the call for impeachment hearings will begin in earnest.


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